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Mean Girls, PROS Anniversary, a Research Hero, and Breastfeeding, Immunization Awareness

Published on August 5, 2016 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 4 months ago


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August is perfect for lazy summer days, but our pediatric research news never rests. So whether you’re lounging by the pool or relaxing in a shady hammock, pull up In the News to find out the science that is hot at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. This week’s post features an intervention for “mean girls” that worked for boys, too; a look at a groundbreaking research network’s past, present, and future; a profile of a research hero; and ways to spread awareness of the importance of breastfeeding and immunizations.

Intervention Targeted to ‘Mean Girls’ Gets High Scores With Fellow Students

Friend to Friend, an aggression prevention program researchers at CHOP designed to improve “mean girls’” social problem-solving knowledge, has broader effects on their classmates, according to new study results.

“A program focused on improving behaviors among urban aggressive girl students also had positive effects on non-targeted students and served to improve the classroom climate,” said study leader Stephen Leff, PhD, co-director of the Violence Prevention Initiative at CHOP. “We hope our future studies will determine why the program has such strong effects for non-targeted youth. Regardless, we are excited about the initial impact and feel that the program has great potential for helping aggressive girls and their classmates.”

F2F is a 10-week, 20-session small group intervention designed for urban African-American third to fifth grade girls that teaches problem-solving, anger management strategies, and leadership skills. Halfway through the intervention, the girls work with facilitators in the classroom to co-lead 10 full classroom sessions of the F2F curriculum, in an effort to reinforce the skills they learned and to promote their leadership and reputation change.

In a randomized trial involving 665 students (46.3 percent male) from six schools within the School District of Philadelphia, not only did the targeted aggressive girls participating in F2F improve their behaviors, but boys within these girls’ classrooms scored higher in peer-ratings of positive friendships and being nice, and scored lower in peer ratings of rumor-spreading, exclusion, and fighting.

Learn more about Friend to Friend in our December blog post.

Read the full press release.

Wanted: Innovative Ideas for Rigorous Research in Pediatric Practice

Happy 30th anniversary to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) Pediatric Research in Office Settings (PROS) network! As new director of PROS, Alexander Fiks, MD, MSCE, a primary care pediatrician at CHOP, contributed to a perspectives article published early online in Pediatrics that looked back at PROS’ achievements and defined its future goals.

Over its three decades, PROS has focused on facilitating research in primary care practice settings and translating study findings into AAP practice guidelines and policies to improve care. PROS studies have covered a wide range of topics from newborn nursery discharge, to safer firearm storage, to the effectiveness of patient portals. Much of the inspiration for these research projects came from PROS members, which include more than 1,700 practitioners at 700 practices caring for 2.7 million children in all 50 states. And new impactful proposals are always welcome.

“Whether you are a researcher with innovative study ideas or a pediatric practitioner who wants to help generate new knowledge to guide care, PROS welcomes your participation,” the authors wrote.

In the next year, PROS plans to launch a new panel study of PROS practitioners to identify timely practice issues, emerging practice concerns such as Zika virus, and changes in the practice environment such as telemedicine. The network also will prioritize projects that address the increasing diversity of the pediatric population and foster research collaborations across all disciplines.

If you have a research idea for PROS to consider, contact Dr. Fiks at [email protected].

Dr. Fiks is also a faculty member at PolicyLab, an associate professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and associate medical director for the Pediatric Research Consortium, CHOP's practice-based research network. Additionally, Dr. Fiks is the associate director of CHOP’s Clinical Futures, and a founding member of the hospital’s Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics.

Meet a Research Hero

Last month, we posted a guest blog by Chris Gantz, MBA, program manager, Clinical Research Support Office, Recruit Enhancement Core, who promoted the idea of crediting the value of the effort of clinical research study participants by calling them medical or research heroes. This week, we came across a story about one these research heroes who made bimonthly trips from her home in suburban Chicago to CHOP over the course of 18 months during her study participation.

Sandra Sojka Lagedrost shared the story of her daughter, Joanna, with The Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP), a nonprofit organization dedicated to engaging the public and patients as partners in the clinical research process. Joanna was diagnosed at age 10 with a rare degenerative nerve disease called Friedreich’s ataxia. Four years later, her parents decided to enroll her in a Phase 3 double-blind placebo controlled trial at CHOP, and she went on to participate in a second trial, which was a natural history study to help researchers better understand the disease.

“It was a very good experience,” Sandra told the CISCRP. “Although we signed the informed consent forms, they explained everything very clearly and in an age-appropriate way to her.”

Joanna, now 22, works as an intern in a law firm and as a freelance editor. She expressed her appreciation for the importance of clinical research: “Human beings like attention,” Joanna told the CISCRP. “When you consider the fact that someone is paying enough attention and money to put on a clinical trial to focus on your condition, it’s hard to understand how someone would not want to participate. It’s obviously for a very good long-term cause and you may enjoy positive outcomes too.”

Read more about Joanna’s story here.

Find out more about participating in clinical research studies here. And learn about opportunities to participate in clinical research at CHOP here.

And if Friedreich’s ataxia sounds familiar, that may be because we featured the “FA Woodstock” family festival in last week’s “In the News” update. Check it out if you missed it!

August is for Awareness

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1 to 7, revisit a Bench to Bedside article highlighting research by Diane Spatz, PhD, RN-BC, an internationally known expert in the field who leads CHOP’s Breastfeeding and Lactation Program. Her findings have contributed to CHOP’s development of a state-of-the-art Human Milk Management Center and a new on-site human milk bank for hospitalized infants. Yet, human milk science remains largely unexplored. “The amount of research that needs to be done about human milk and breastfeeding is phenomenal,” Dr. Spatz said.

It’s also National Immunization Awareness Month! In case you missed it, read a Q&A with Paul Offit, MD, co-inventor of a rotavirus vaccine and director of the Vaccine Education Center at CHOP. “I think that wanting to protect children from harm is what drove me to pediatrics and why I wanted to help make vaccines,” Dr. Offit said. Get to know this Vax Pack Hero and why he pursued infectious diseases as a specialty.


In case you missed it earlier this week on Cornerstone, read a post about research that suggests laws limiting school junk food sales and ads have the potential to affect the childhood obesity rate.

Last week’s In the News post reported on a rare-disease community of families at a grassroots festival, a molecule that could rapidly stop dangerous excess bleeding, a new rare syndrome caused by a genetic flaw in a fundamental cellular process, and evidence-based guidelines to consistently protect more infants and toddlers from child abuse.

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